This is a continuation from my photo story about Shirabu Hot Springs a few months ago. During my visit, I stumbled across a large information board with a large map of the hot spring area when something caught my attention - a cable car.
While Shirabu Hot Springs is already settled deep into the mountains, the cable car takes you even further up the mountain into the heart of Mount Nishiazuma. For someone who has never seen the view from on top of a mountain, I decided to ride the cable car without a second thought.
The cable car took about five minutes by car from where the information board was located. When I stepped out of the car, I was shocked by the amount of hairy caterpillars (called kemushi). I hadn't noticed them in the car, but as I started walking, I noticed them under my feet. On the ground, in the trees, the hairy caterpillars were everywhere.
When I asked the person operating the lift if this was normal, he responded that about once every ten years they experience a large amount of caterpillars. What were the chances that I would visit during that time? With that bad luck on my mind (although I found it quite entertaining), I turned my attention back to my adventure up the mountain.
I was greeted at the top by an incredibly expansive view of the surrounding terrain. I found out that what I was looking at was Tengen-dai Plateau. Tengen-dai Plateau is an area for hiking between the spring and fall, that transforms into a ski resort during the winter.
The name "Tengen-dai" was named by the mayor at the time who liked the game of Go, because "Tengen" is the name for the central black dot on the Go gameboard. The gameboard is considered to be modeled after the universe, which makes Tengen the center of the universe.
Thus, this is where the name "Tengen" comes from, and why the mayor selected this unique name for the plateau. Standing where I was, I could see why the mayor chose the name. I can imagine that standing atop that mountain at night would make feel much closer to the universe.
In the plateau, there are many things to see. The city of Yonezawa has an observation deck that offers an unbroken, 360 degree view of the area. There were also buildings that looked to be villas or holiday houses. On top of the mountain you will find restaurants and other points of interest.
If you plan on visiting Shirabu Hot Springs, I recommended taking a stroll through the plateau first before you relax in the hot springs.
The lift ticket cost 1500 yen round-trip.